At the very end of 2008 I started work on State of the World 2010, which after much discussion took on the title Transforming Cultures: From Consumerism to Sustainability. In the three years that have passed, I’ve never really stopped working on this book. Since then, I’ve written new articles on how to weaken the consumer culture and cultivate a culture of sustainability; helped the Center for a New American Dream do its important work; co-directed State of the World 2012 spreading the idea of degrowth in the process, and even tried my hand at cultural pioneering by producing an eco-educational scenario for the popular board game The Settlers of Catan. And of course I regularly produced blog articles for the Transforming Cultures blog.
Now add to that co-directing State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? This new report is an exciting one–filled with challenging new ideas ranging from how to delegitimize fossil fuels to how to spread an ecological philosophy through missionary efforts, and a broad set of topics in between. (And yes, there will be a chapter on cultural engineering!)
As that report will soon have a blog of its own and I’ll be putting a lot of energy into keeping it fresh, it is time to wrap up the Transforming Cultures blog and make this a static website. The blog archive will still be here on a sub-page as will the entire report (and several translated editions), and spin off efforts like the Transforming Cultures youth edition and Catan: Oil Springs, as well as resources like the PowerPoint presentation, discussion guide, and videos.
But before I sign off, I do want to use this last blog post to thank everyone who has helped make this project a success so far (it will continue sans blog) and share a few highlights from 2012.
On June 7th, my son was born, opening my eyes to a whole slew of sustainability issues I hadn’t yet had to deal with. (And more importantly, showing me how deep love can get.) In a happy coincidence our partner Worldwatch Institute Europe produced a report on Sustainable Childhood that provides some ways to help ensure the next generation isn’t raised as consumers but as eco-guardians. Also in 2012, UNESCO Catalunya produced a youth edition of State of the World 2010–now available in 5 languages thanks to UNESCO Cat and Worldwatch Brazil. It’s a highly colorful and engaging version of the report and I hope it’ll be used by teens around the world. As I have entered this new life phase, I imagine over the coming years there will be other ways I try grappling with sustainable parenting. I just hope in the years to come I can keep my son from becoming a mindless, video-game playing, junk-food eating consumer. Considering where I’m raising him (the capital city of the United States of Consumerism) it’s not going to be easy.
On Sharing the Message
I had many opportunities over the year to share the message that we need to transform cultures so that living sustainably becomes as natural as living like a consumer feels today. The cover of State of the World 2012, which came from the mind of Wes Bedrosian, is the best image I’ve seen capturing what will really need to be done to get us to a sustainable future. We’ll have to turn our back on many things we associate with progress today–which isn’t going to be easy but is going to happen whether we choose to do so or the declining ecological systems force this. So might as well save some pain and proactively make the changes. The chapter I wrote for the report tries to map out that process, and it was a great pleasure sharing that message as part of year’s outreach, including at the 2012 International Degrowth Conference. I hope this term quickly sinks into the minds of humanity–even though right now it’s quite a taboo term that even alienated some of my colleagues (an interesting part of 2012 for sure!).
While sharing ideas is essential, sometimes simply playing is more important. So it’s been fun to spend some of 2012 playing Catan: Oil Springs with Settlers fans around the world. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing gamers realize just how powerful a strategy is to win and yet how dangerous it can be–and then seeing them connect that game mechanic with the real world and discover for themselves just how challenging dealing with fossil fuels and climate change is going to be. It was also very nice to find the rules of Catan: Oil Springs excerpted in the newest Harper’s magazine. What a way to end the year!
On Giving Thanks
And behind all these efforts was the help of hundreds of individuals. Interns (past and present) have continued to contribute to the project and blog, colleagues and friends have organized talks, game nights, and other ways to share the Transforming Cultures message through a variety of media. Thanks to all that have made this project a success! We’ll see what 2013 brings. Hopefully more of the same. But for sure, the year will certainly bring many challenging conversations about whether sustainability is still possible and what we should do to prepare for the bumpy ride ahead that we certainly have ahead of us. To be part of that conversation please visit the “Is Sustainability Still Possible?” blog.
Here’s to a happy and hopefully more sustainable 2013!